Monday, January 14, 2008

Julie Taymor

Tonight Ann and I walked two blocks and spent three bucks to see Across the Universe, a Mobius strip of a film that creates characters from Beatles songs who express their lives in part through Beatles songs. I was skeptical of the whole thing, except for the popcorn, but I ended up being very impressed. I'll tell you up front I would have enjoyed it under any circumstance just for the glimpse of Joe Cocker as a bum and a pimp singing Come Together - he hasn't lost the body English - but I was impressed with everything - casting, editing, choreography, everything having to do with the music (which took some getting used to, ironically enough), and the psychedelic effects, which went beyond Warhol and Kesey references to succeed nicely. The production of Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite alone was worth the price of admission.

As the credits began to run I wondered who had managed to bring the movie together so well and promptly saw Julie Taymor's name as director.

I am slow, I am generally culturally illiterate, and I don't pay attention very well, but third time's the charm and this is the third of Ms. Taymor's many-more-than-three great accomplishments I am now familiar with. She directed The Lion King (the world premier of which was in Minneapolis - did I mention that, Robin?) and she directed the film Frida. Frida Kahlo's visage has gradually replaced Kirby Puckett's in the Twin Cities thanks to the exhibit of her work at the Walker Art Center and their lavish advertising budget (think bus stop posters).

We thoroughly enjoyed the Walker show, which included previously undisplayed photographs, and like most people we were floored by The Lion King.

We enjoyed Frida, the film, before the Walker show began but had some questions as to where reality ended and magical realism began; but the PBS special The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, with its wealth of archival video, demonstrated the movie's magic was in how well it portrayed the reality of Frida's life and vision rather than in the application of artistic license.

On the "other features" disk of Frida there's a Bill Moyer interview with Julie Taymor, and I suspect someone will be making a film of her life one day (and good luck at doing it justice). She's an upstanding Oberlin grad, by the way. She also has directed more Shakespeare plays than you can shake a skull at, but that's a bit over my head.

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